Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in cases of John W. Harper and G. Leonard Rappold, III, v. The Zoning Hearing Board of Ridley Township, No. 8155 of 1973; John W. Harper and Jane Harper, his wife, v. The Zoning Hearing Board of Ridley Township, No. 8152 of 1973; and G. Leonard Rappold, III, v. The Zoning Hearing Board of Ridley Township, No. 8154 of 1973.
R. Paul Lessy, for appellant.
F. Kirk Adams, for appellees.
Judges Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr. and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
These three appeals, consolidated for the purpose of argument before this Court, involve three requests for variances for three separate lots in Ridley Township (Township). All three requests were denied by the Township's Zoning Hearing Board (Board) which, after holding hearings, issued its adjudication on February 11, 1974 refusing all of the petitions. On appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, however, the landowners involved in each appeal were successful and, in three separate opinions dated October 24, October 31, and November 12, that court, without taking additional evidence, reversed the Board and ordered that all three variances be granted.
Our scope of review in zoning appeals involving requests for variances, where the lower court has taken no additional evidence, is limited to a determination of whether or not the Board abused its discretion or committed an error of law. AFSO Builders, Inc. v. The Zoning Hearing Board of the Township of Upper Darby, 12 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 100, 314 A.2d 860 (1974); The Boulevard Land Corporation v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 8 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 584, 303 A.2d 234 (1973). We cannot accept the Township's assertion that our scope of review should be narrower. If zoning boards were allowed to grant variances at their own absolute discretion, they would, in effect, be enacting zoning legislation by a piecemeal process. See Michener Appeal, 382 Pa. 401, 115 A.2d 367 (1955).
Section 912 of the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), Act of July 31, 1968, P.L. 805, as amended, 53 P.S. § 10912 sets out the Board's function in considering requests for variances and also establishes the conditions
under which variances may be granted. All three of these appeals involve situations in which the hardship asserted is similar to that which we considered to be appropriate for a variance in Jacquelin v. Horsham Township, 10 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 473, 312 A.2d 124 (1973). Here, as in Jacquelin, all of the landowners seek variances in order to avoid the minimum dimensional requirements of the zoning ordinance for "B" residential districts, and they wish to build residences on their lots. Section 402 of the Township Zoning Ordinance, however, imposes the following restrictions in "B" residential districts:
"The building area shall not exceed thirty per cent (30%) of the lot area, and in no case shall any building be erected on any lot with an area of less than 5,000 square feet and a width of less than 50 feet at the front building line."
All of the lots in question fail to meet the minimum width of fifty feet. In addition, one contains less than the 5,000 square feet minimum area. Otherwise, building plans in each case appear to conform to the requirements of the zoning ordinance.
The minimum area and width requirements of Section 402 of the ordinance were initially adopted by the Township in 1970. Prior to that time, ...